The future of being ‘Pakistani’ in India
In wake of Shiv Sena’s growing threats and extremism, what does the future hold for Pakistani artists working in India?
By Nida Ameen
‘Art transcends borders’. This particular statement has been a strong basis for the recent wave of artistic exchange between India and Pakistan. Despite political tensions and extremists at both ends playing a tug of war, more or less, Pakistani artists, actors and musicians, have all continued to cross over and have been welcomed there with open arms. Needless to say, Zindagi TV has been at the helm of all such affairs making Pakistani actors like Fawad Khan, Sanam Saeed, Aamina Sheikh, Mawra Hocane and Adnan Siddiqui household names in India. The trade balance may be uneven though, with hardly any Indian actors venturing into Pakistani cinema, but theatre has tried to fill in this void by hosting the likes of Om Puri, Divya Dutta and Mahesh Bhatt. Cinema too is trying to lure Indians into collaborations with Mahesh Bhatt joining hands with Humayun Saeed for a Punjabi film and now, Kareena Kapoor, is rumoured to be doing a film with filmmaker Shoaib Mansoor (they are reportedly due to meet in Dubai this week).
However, just when things were looking good for the liberals on both sides, extremists have played their cards and spewed venom over all potential prospects. The culprits in question are junior partners of a ruling coalition with BJP, Shiv Sena. Notorious for their violent activities and radical in their approach, Shiv Sena has long been purposively threatening the existence of Pakistani artists in India, even more so in the recent past. Not that Indian Muslim actors have been spared by their nefariousness. SRK has constantly been at loggerheads with the party and so has Saif Ali Khan. Recently, Naseeruddin Shah, too, got embroiled in a controversy for supporting former Pakistan foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri’s book and speaking in praise of Pakistani artists. But, in short, anything and everything to do with Pakistan is bound to spur trouble and Pakistani performers remain the main target.
Earlier this month, ghazal singer Ghulam Ali was forced to cancel his concert in Mumbai last minute and later, Meekal Hasan Band’s performance was disrupted by frantic protests outside the venue resulting in an abrupt end. Due to similar threats,
Javed Bashir opted for a concert in Delhi instead of Mumbai. The cricketing world has also come under fire as Aleem Dar was recently relieved of his duties as an umpire in the one-day matches taking place in India and Wasim Akhtar and Shoaib Akhtar, who were responsible for commentaries, were also sent back to Pakistan amid threats. According to recent reports by Emirates 24/7, this wave of Shiv Sena’s terror isn’t subsiding any time soon. Senior Shiv Sena leaders have vowed to not let Pakistani actors Mahira Khan and Fawad Khan promote their upcoming films in the state of Mahrashtra – home to Bollywood. “We have taken a stand not to allow any Pakistani actor, cricketer or performer to step on Maharashtra soil,” said Akshay Bardapurkar, general Secretary of the Shiv Sena Chitrapat Sena, the film wing of the Shiv Sena. “We are not really bothered about who is signing these Pakistanis in their film. Karan Johar, Farhan Akhtar, Shah Rukh Khan etc are responsible citizens and they should not cast Pakistanis in their film.”
Fawad, who made his Bollywood debut last year with Khoobsurat, will next be seen in K Jo’s Kapoor & Sons and Ae Dil Hai Mushkilwhereas Mahira will be making her Bollywood debut alongside SRK in Raees. Apart from these two, Mawra Hocane and Imran Abbas also have film projects signed in B-town. And while all of them have maintained a lowkey presence in Bollywood, despite being icons in their own country, their future, even with all the great opportunities, appears slightly bleak right now.
While supporters of peace like Bhatt and Shabana Azmi have condemned such acts, not much has been done to put an end to them. While Bhatt recently said in an interview that “it’s a familiar nightmare that keeps on recurring in this part of our country and the peace activists of the civil society aiming for keeping cultural ties intact with Pakistan have to face roadblocks like this,” most just have to give into those roadblocks. Also, even though there are many Bollywood celebs who have spoken against Shiv Sena’s atrocities on social media and print, most prefer to remain silent amidst concerns of personal security and others, like singer Abhijeet who openly called Pakistani artists shameless for working in B-town, may even support Shiv Sena’s stance.
Ironically, even though Pakistan is time and again snubbed for being a ‘terrorist incubator’, one hasn’t witnessed such violent acts when Indian celebs have visited this side of the border. Nevertheless, this isn’t a comparison between the two countries and the hospitality of its industries. Good and bad exist on both sides. That said, the decidingmoment will be the release of Fawad and Mahira’s upcoming films – whether Fawad becomes part of another round of promotional activities and public appearances or returns home to sit and watch the response to his second biggest release, remains to be seen.